With the Model S key in your pocket, connecting the car to a charger couldn’t be simpler. Each of the chargers have a button that communicates with the charger port. Simply press the button on the charger handle and the charger point, hidden in the left rear light, opens for you you. With the charger connected, you’ll know if you’ve made a solid connection thanks to 3 LED lights, with all of them shinning green, the connection is made and locked, meaning only you can disconnect.
This electric connection to the vehicle ensures passers by can’t disconnect while you’re away from the vehicle. If you’re inside the vehicle and need to open the charge port, you can do it by tapping the lightning bolt in the top left of the 17” touchscreen. This option works great if you can get the passenger to do the charging.
There are two ways to charger your vehicle, a Supercharger and an included charger that connects to a regular 240 volt power outlet. It wasn’t until I spent time with the car that I got to realise, just how super, the supercharger is.
Tesla are constructing an east-coast electric infrastructure for their owners. This matches the location of the majority of Australia’s population, so is the natural place to start which, as it appeals to the most people. At the start of 2016, there’s Melbourne (Richmond), Euroa, Wodonga, Canberra, Goulbourn and Sydney. Throughout this year, Tesla will grow their Australian Supercharger network and install superchargers up to Brisbane.
The Model S P90D has a sticker range of 460km, I seen a maximum charge of 484km of range. The extra weight of the battery and extra performance of the P90D consumes slightly more battery 85D, which is rated for up to 528km on a single charge. There is no other auto maker that even comes close to this kind of range and certainly nobody offering the ability to transit the majority of the east coast, for free. The fact you’re not paying for petrol every week, needs to be factored into the cost equation for owning a vehicle. Tesla estimates a $14,000 saving in petrol over 5 years.
Tesla owners get to recharge at Superchargers for free for the life of the vehicle. This means if you live near a supercharger, you’ll basically never pay for power.
When connected to a Supercharger, the power is supplied rapidly for a majority of the capacity, but as it nears the top, it slows as to not ‘pop’ the battery. I’ve watched the charging rate closely this week and the top rate I’ve seen from the Supercharger is just over 700km/hr.
With a destination plugged into the GPS, you can return to the vehicle and be presented with the comforting message ‘You have enough energy to continue on your trip’. An impressive feature of the nav system is letting you know how long you’ll need to stop at a charging location, before you even start the journey. From Melbourne to Wodonga I stopped in at Euroa, I knew I needed 20 minutes of charge as I’d used a bit of power before leaving the city. This was a great opportunity to grab lunch, a trip to the restroom, then be on my way.
Its really hard to run out of power in the Tesla, to do it, you’d have to ignore the data right in front of you and the screen will warn you not to take a journey if you won’t make it.
2015 Australian Supercharger network.
2016 Australian Supercharger network.
At some supercharger locations, like the Richmond one, there’s a dedicated relaxation room for owners who charge there. Each is provided with a key and instead of waiting inside the vehicle, they can head inside, grab a drink from the fridge, enjoy a large screen TV, a couch and WiFi. As owners get their own access key, they can visit 24/7, like modern fitness centres. Its one of the nice touches owners enjoy.
There’s some other benefits to owning a Tesla that you may not be aware of, like the ability to park in premium spots at some shopping centres. One example of this is Chadstone shopping centre, where the fast chargers are located right next to the disabled car parks, or right at the front door and are exclusive to Tesla owners. This is the same parking location that took regular drivers hours to find a spot over Christmas.
Charging at home with 240v
With the right planning, you should never have to use or pay for charging the Model S from you’re own household power. If you do, be prepared to wait much longer than a pit stop at a Supercharger. When I first connected the car to 240v to try it, the display told me the charging time was 24 hours. That’s pretty shocking and like I mentioned earlier, really makes you appreciate how much power is going through those Superchargers.
Last night I charged the Model S using 240v to complete a road trip to Cobram.
At 8:00PM the car pulled into the garage and was connected to the charger with around 90km left. I woke at 2:00AM and checked the progress, the range was up to 190km. By morning, just after 7:00AM the car had recharged to 250km.
That means it provides an average of 14.33 km/hr, a far cry from the maximum 704km/hr I’ve seen at the Supercharger.
One issue you may face at home is the availability of a power point in your garage. Where I’m renting, we have a powered garage door opener that is connected to a single power point. This means you can charge your car, or have your garage door opener, but not both. The weight of the charger means a double adapter is unlikely to support the weight. Running an extension lead to the floor, then connecting your charger is a workaround. If you happen to be building a house, its probably worth planning for a charger lower to the ground.
Despite the slower charge, having access to plug in to any power outlet, is your backup should you run out of power. Its also worth considering that a lot of locations are adding outdoor power outlets for personal mobility scooters that could be used to charge from.
Destination Charging (at hotels)
Internationally there’s plenty of hotel chains that are adding Tesla rechargers to entice premium customers to stay there. After looking through the navigation system, I noticed the Atura hotel in Albury has one of these chargers. You do have to be a guest, staying at the hotel to use it, but it is complimentary, as is the WiFi.
This is likely to become far more common place and will assist those travelling to locations away from the easy-coast. Hotels who offer Tesla rechargers will become known as progressive EV-friendly and sell rooms, specifically because they offer it.
While not everyone lives close to a supercharger, depending on your daily commute, you may be able to visit the Supercharger once a week. If I owned a Model S, I’d happily take my Surface Pro 3 and get some work done during the recharge time. This week, I’ve used the car, a lot and that’s meant a visit to the Supercharger almost every day. The most time I’ve spent there is 1 hour and during that time I’ve usually walked across High St, Wodonga and grabbed Subway, a testament to the prime real estate in the centre of town being selected and Tesla’s ability to negotiate the use of public land for private enterprise.
I have to thank Wodonga Council for saying yes to Tesla and becoming a critical part of the future of Australia’s transportation network.
While Tesla owners get to recharge for free, its likely we’ll see competitor’s electric vehicles having to pay to use their infrastructure. While the power to a Supercharger currently comes from the grid and Tesla foots the bill, internationally they’re leveraging Elon Musk’s other company, Solar City, to line the roof of a Supercharger with solar panels. With their other product, Powerwall able to store solar power for use at any time of the day, these charging locations will ultimately cost Tesla nothing and if they do charge others, may even become a serious profit centre for the business.
One thing I couldn’t test is the iOS and Android mobile apps. It seems that’s something reserved for owners as the vehicle has to be associated with your Tesla account for this to work. If you own a Tesla, you can check the charge from your mobile at any time. That makes for a great experience when you’re away from your charging vehicle.